MLA’s Kathleen Fitzpatrick Discusses the Future of Citation

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“If anything, the reference system provided by a good citation style has come to matter even more in the age of the internet, rather than being rendered obsolete by the seemingly infinite networking and searchability of texts and other cultural resources online. Things migrate with great fluidity these days: that article might still be associated with the journal in which it was published, but it’s very likely been found through an online journal aggregator like JSTOR, and that might make a difference to a future researcher trying to track down a source. […] And so on: publications and other cultural objects are no longer quite as fixed in format as they were, and their very malleability may heighten the importance for future scholars of knowing precisely which version today’s researcher consulted.

Citations are the highway markers of an ongoing conversation, one that does not end with the text presently being written, but that has the potential to stretch both forward in time and outward in unexpected directions. Any given scholarly exchange could result not just in the rebuttal of prior arguments but in those arguments’ potential recirculation and reinterpretation in the context of another scholar’s work.”

Read the complete LARB article.

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